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What is Fostering?

Fostering is looking after babies, children or young people who are in need of a safe, stable family environment. Foster carers receive a generous fostering allowance, expert training, and ongoing support from their local National Fostering Group team.

Fostering is teamwork

When a child can’t live with their parents or other relatives, fostering provides a safe and nurturing family environment where they can thrive. Foster carers, also known as foster parents, invest great energy into their role and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they’ve made a difference.

From the moment you apply to become a foster carer, you become part of something much bigger – a team that puts everything in place, so you can be your best in your role and your foster child can thrive.

Fostering agency

Foster carers work with their local fostering agency and the local authority to provide care that meets the foster child’s specific needs.
Find your local agency

Placement choice

Fostering placements are varied. Foster carers decide on the types of fostering they’d like to do, with help from their assessing social worker.
Types of foster care

Fostering pay & allowances

We pay foster carers a generous fostering allowance and offer other perks and benefits to help them provide foster children with stability and security.

Fostering pay

Support & training

Our foster carers have the ongoing support of their agency team and local foster carers like them, as well as access to excellent training courses.

Support & training

“Foster carers help build incredible futures for young people and children to help them make their way in life.”

Geoff Hodgson, foster carer

Fostering is life-changing

We’ve described what fostering is, but what fostering means runs much deeper. The commitment, compassion and love that our foster carers have for the children in their care is life-changing. Fostering is comforting, loving and inspiring. It provides children and young people with the safe space they need to heal and grow into their potential.

Aiden was just nine years old but had already experienced four foster placements and an adoption breakdown. Under the care of his foster parents Geoff and Stephen, he’s now achieving good grades at school, plays hockey for his county, has represented England in Judo, and is a leader in the Scouts. Inspired by Geoff’s grown-up children, he’s got ambitions to go to university. “Fostering has changed my life,” Aiden said. “I mean, look at where I am now – happy.” Read Aiden, Geoff and Stephen’s full story.


“Our foster carers have a lot of love to give. The majority of our foster children have experienced being let down by their care-givers. It’s beautiful to see the trust build between a foster carer and their foster child, and everything that flows from that.”

Ella, supervising social worker

Why do children need fostering?

There are many reasons why children and young people need to be looked after by foster carers, and every single case is different. The myths that ‘families are always at fault’ and that ‘foster children are always difficult’ is untrue. Some people just need more help than others. As varied as the reasons are, there are three broad categories.

1. Periods of instability

Some families go through periods of instability due to difficult circumstances and need time apart to find a solution. Common factors include things like mental or physical health emergencies, medical conditions, family breakdown, learning difficulties, and substance dependencies.

2. Harm from family members

Parents may have failed to meet the basic needs of their child, caused them harm, or exposed them to inappropriate behaviour or risk. Fostering removes them from an abusive environment to a safe place where they can thrive.

Abuse falls into five main groups: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence. These can all have long-lasting effects, so foster children and their carers might need additional support.

3. Special needs

The parents of children with special needs occasionally need foster carers to take over so they can take a break. Looking after children full time can be challenging! Respite care lets parents recuperate for a weekend, a couple of weeks, or the duration of the school holidays.

Special needs fostering is a broad description – it includes learning disabilities, specific medical needs, severe disabilities and challenging behaviour. Only carers who have received specific training will be put forward for a particular type of foster care.

“My foster carer is like Andy from Toy Story - Andy never gives up on Woody and my carer never gives up on me.”

Chloe, foster child

Could you be a foster carer?

We welcome applications from people of all ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, physical abilities and the LGBT+ community. You can be single, married, a homeowner or a tenant (you’ll need a spare room for the exclusive use of your foster child). Your ability to care for and nurture a child is what really matters.

You’re especially welcome if you’ve worked with children before (for example, as a teacher, doctor, nurse, paramedic or carer). You might find our Can I Foster? tool useful if you’ve got more questions about your suitability or see our blog on professions that make the best foster carers.

“Fostering is a very rewarding role and no two days are the same. The look of joy on your young person's face when they have a new life experience and you turn their life around is priceless!”

Natalie, foster carer

National fostering with local impact

Fostering is an important undertaking. As one of the UK’s most experienced agencies, we’ll support you every step of the way – starting with your application to become a foster carer. You can be approved as a foster carer in 8 weeks (fast track application) or 16 weeks (standard fostering application).

All our local fostering services have been rated either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, so you can see how committed we are to ensuring a positive and reassuring foster care experience for you and your foster child.

If you feel inspired to find out more, enquire now.  As our foster carers say, it’s one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do.

Join over 3,000 happy foster carers

Frequently asked questions

What is foster care or fostering?

When babies, children and young people cannot be looked after by their own family, a local authority and fostering agency work together to provide them with someone suitable to look after them. Foster care, or fostering, is one option.

The child or young person will temporarily live with another person or family in their home. The foster carer or parent will go through an assessment process, complete specialist training courses and will be supervised, as well as receiving a weekly fostering allowance.

There are different types of foster care and they can be very short, or can continue for years. New parents who need support with their baby can also be placed in foster care so they can learn the skills and gain confidence. Find out more about foster care.

What happens after I’m approved as a foster carer?

We will begin matching you with a suitable child or young person. When a match is found, we will liaise with your local authority and pass your details on. You might meet with your potential foster child beforehand or they may be brought to you immediately, depending on the urgency of their requirements – for example, if a emergency foster care is required. You might be feeling nervous about fostering for the first time, but don’t forget you will be supported by your local agency team, especially your Supervising Social Worker. They will do all they can to help you care for the vulnerable child or young person you care for. Read more about how to get approved to become a foster carer.

How do I talk to my family about fostering?

You should talk about the idea to start fostering with your family, especially if you’ll all be living under the same roof. We have had a lot of positive feedback from the children of foster parents, who feel they’ve been enriched by the experience of having a foster sibling.

We do support you and your family from the start. Rest reassured, we make every effort to place a child with you that mutually suits your circumstances and specific family dynamic. If you’d like to know more about this aspect of fostering, fill in our quick enquiry form and speak to the team in your local area.

How will fostering a child affect my family?

Naturally, the dynamic in your home will change with the addition of another person who has their own likes and dislikes. You’ll need to adapt routines and incorporate the needs of the young people you care for. Thanks to your assessment process and training, you’ll understand potential changes you might need to make and you’ll be prepared.

Also, our wonderful community of foster carers and your local team will help you find your feet and make it a positive experience. Fostering is incredibly rewarding. Knowing you’ve all made a worthwhile decision to make a significant difference to someone’s life is something your family could feel excited about. Find out more about the rewards and benefits of fostering.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.